Softball: Westhill's Aquino bats in winning run in semis
Westhill High softball pitcher Edy Aquino not only threw 140 pitches on Tuesday afternoon, but she provided the Vikings with the game-winning bloop single to right in the eighth inning to propel her top-seeded team to a 6-5 win over No. 5 St. Joseph in the FCIAC semifinals at Sacred Heart University’s Pioneer Park.
With the win, Westhill (19-3) denied the Cadets (13-9) a fourth straight appearance in the final where they’ve won the last three.
The Vikings will meet No. 2 Darien High (15-2) for the title on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at SHU.
The Blue Wave knocked off No. 6 Fairfield Ludlowe, 8-4, in their semifinal.
Aquino, who hit a solo home run in the third, came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth.
After working the count to 1-2 and fouling off two pitches, she drove the ball to the opposite field.
The hit was just out of the reach of Julia Basso, as Gabby Laccona scored the winning run for Westhill.
"She's a gamer," said Westhill coach Tom Pia of Aquino. "She just works hard and keeps the ball around the corners. Her pitches were getting up in the later innings and I'm not sure she could've gone much longer."
St. Joseph played sloppy defense early and fell behind 5-0 after three innings, before the Cadets started battling back.
"I don't know if it was nerves, but that's not how we've played at all this year," said head coach Jeff Babineau. "We've have some young players and this is the big stage for them. But I told them the good thing was it could've gotten worse for us. We could've gotten killed 15-0. I'm proud of these kids for coming back like they did."
The Vikings scored four runs in the second inning on three hits and two Cadet errors.
Aquino's homer, which hit the top of the wall in deep center made it 5-0 after three innings.
The Cadets' Hannah Hutchison tripled to right center as the second batter up in the fourth and eventually scored on Jovanna Hillman's base hit.
St. Joe's then strung together four consecutive hits to open the fifth, with Allie Petronchak driving in the first of her three runs. The Cadets second run scored on Hutchison's fielder's choice.
St. Joe's got two more runs in the fifth, both coming home on Petronchak 's line-drive base hit to left center.
In the seventh, the Cadets got a runner to second when Melissa Bike walked and was sacrificed over by Hillman.
With two outs, Kayla Giacobbe hit a high hopper up the middle, which was snared by Aquino who threw her out at first.
Westhill loaded the bases in the seventh off of Catherine Connell who took over for Payton Doiron in the third, but the Vikings were unable to push a run across.
The Cadets couldn't contain Westhill in the eighth
After two were retired, Laccona and Kaira Roman (three hits) each singled.
Jordan Benzaken drew a walk before Aquino ended the game with her base hit.
"She took a really good approach in that last at-bat," Pia said. "She kept making contact and I knew if we put the ball in play something good could've happened. And it did."
Olivia Butler, Aquino and Betsy Sachs all had two hits for the Vikings who had 12 in the game.
Petronchak and Hillman had a pair each to lead St. Joe's eight-hit attack.
"Their top four hitters are all very good," said Babineau, whose team lost to the Vikings, 7-1, during the regular season. "We had a few chances late in the game and didn't come through. What hurt us was our bad start."